‘Ain’t nobody fixing to help you’

By Curtis Ramsey-Lucas

Authorities in Florida say a group of teenagers recorded the drowning of a disabled man. Not only did they not try to help, they made fun of his plight.

Jamel Dunn, 32, of Cocoa, drowned in a retention pond July 9. His body was recovered two days after his fiancée reported him missing. A friend of Dunn’s family came across the video on social media and reported it to authorities in Brevard County.

In the video, published by the Florida Today newspaper, the teens laugh as Dunn struggles in the water and screams for help. None of the teens–all between ages 14 and 16–called 911 or tried to help. Instead, they mocked Dunn.

“Get out the water, you gonna die,” yells one, while another yells, “Ain’t nobody fixing to help you.” As Dunn slips beneath the water, one of the teens says, “Oh, he just died.”

The teens, who were identified and questioned by police, may face charges under a Florida statute that requires a person with knowledge of a death to notify a medical examiner. Additional charges are unlikely since the teens were not directly involved in Dunn’s death and Florida law does not obligate citizens to render aid or call for help for anyone in distress.

Earlier this year, The Christian Citizen published an account of a hit-and-run, in which a homeless man was injured. In “No One Stopped to Help,” Max Ramsey writes, “The indignity of it was not limited to the fact that the driver sped away as if no deed was done, no life that mattered nearly snuffed out. The indignity, indeed the indictment of all that we have become as a city, was driven home by the fact that the other cars who followed after and witnessed our friend flying through the air and landing in a sickening heap on the pavement stopped to help, or even slowed down. Ramsey asks a critical question, “Do we think that God doesn’t see?”

Not only does God see our inhumanity toward one another, God has experienced it. When they crucified Jesus, “those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!’” (Matthew 27:39–40). One can almost hear them saying, “Ain’t nobody fixing to help you.”

C.S. Lewis posited three elements that make up human beings: the intellect, residing in the head, the passions, residing in the stomach, and the trained, habituated emotions — the “stable sentiments” of character — which Lewis associated with the chest. Each element is essential and functions in concert with the others. In “the tragi-comedy of our situation,” Lewis writes, “we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. …In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst” (C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944, 36–37).

“Ain’t nobody fixing to help you” is an expression of a life lacking the guidance of the trained, habituated emotions and an indictment of a society in which citizens remain spectators rather than responding to the needs of others as they are able. This, however, is not the final word just as “save yourself!” was not. In Christ, God continues to intervene and to save, calling us to be instruments and expressions of the same.

Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen, a publication of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.